16 Apr 2024  |   05:07am IST


N J Ravi Chander

Philography, the pastime of gathering autographs, has remained popular for many generations. The irresistible appeal of the hobby enticed Bengalurean Dr Farooq Mohammed, who wholeheartedly embraced it during his early years. Even in his old age, the octogenarian's enthusiasm for collecting autographs remains strong. The prospect of encountering a celebrity and obtaining their autograph always excited him.

Dr  Farooq's journey into the world of autograph collection began with a moment of pure joy. He had sent Jawaharlal Nehru's private secretary a First Day Cover of Motilal Nehru, requesting the Prime Minister's signature, but forgot about it. A month later, an envelope arrived, and the boy's heart leapt when he discovered an autographed black-and-white photo of Panditji! This accomplishment ignited a spark, pushing him to chase his dream.

Dr Farooq enjoyed the thrill of hunting for autographs. He would scan the 'today's engagement' column in the local dailies before zeroing in on the celebrities. His favourite haunt was the Indian Institute of Science, where luminaries delivered lectures. After college hours, he would catch a bus to the venue. With lax VIP security prevailing back then, he found it easier to approach his targets.

Dr Farooq's collection of autographs is a testament to his dedication. It includes rare signatures from politicians like Swaran Singh, V K Krishna Menon, Kailash Nath Katju, Jayaprakash Narayan, Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, RR Diwakar, EMS Namboodiripad, and Tarkeshwari Sinha (the glamour girl of Nehru's cabinet), film stars like Dev Anand, Kalpana Kartik, and Devika Rani, Russian painter Nicholas Roerich, former secretary to the government of India, V P Menon, Diwan of Travancore, Dr C P Ramaswami Aiyar, National Commissioner of Bharat Scouts and Guides, Lakshmi Mazumdar, mountaineer Sherpa Tenzing, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Commander-in-Chief General KM Cariappa, General Kodendera Subayya Thimayya and Finance Secretary CD Deshmukh.

Dr Farooq's dedication to his hobby was unyielding, even in adversity. He would sometimes skip school to collect signatures. Once, he bumped into Nobel laureate Sir C V Raman near Hebbal Lake and got the latter's precious autograph. The prized autographs of famous Kannada writer, poet and philosopher DV Gundappa, iconic editor of Deccan Herald Pothan Joseph, and universally admired Christian evangelist E Stanley Jones also grace his vast collection.

Although not a sports fanatic, Dr Farooq's passion extended to the games arena. His extensive collection includes hand-signed autograph sheets containing signatures of overseas cricketers featured in their country's maiden tour of India. Autographs of Indian cricketers like Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Vijay Merchant and Vinod Kambli adorn his collection. So are the signatures of tennis icon Ramanathan Krishnan and the 'Flying Sikh', Milkha Singh.

Dr Farooq's quest for autographs had its fair share of dramatic moments. On one occasion, while Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar was visiting the Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries Sciences University in Bengaluru, Dr Farooq, who was a professor, asked his principal to get the maharaja's autograph for him. However, the principal admonished him and asked him to avoid the royal guest.

But soon, Dr Farooq would have his 'royal moment'. When the maharaja passed the professor's classroom, the latter mustered the courage to ask for his autograph. The principal's disapproving gaze didn't deter him. His Highness obliged his admirer by scrawling "JCW" in bold letters. Unfortunately, the professor's act earned him the principal's ire and a transfer to a distant city.


Idhar Udhar